Senegal


DAKAR, Senegal - Representatives from Senegal participate in the three-day Africa Endeavor 2009 Initial Planning Conference, January 13, 2009 in Dakar, Senegal. Africa Endeavor, the largest multinational communication interoperability exercise on the African continent, will be hosted in Gabon in July, 2009. The exercise is designed to encourage information-sharing among African nations that will support the development of overall African Union humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and peace-support missions. (U.S. Africa Command Photo by Justin G. Wagg)

DAKAR, Senegal - Representatives from Senegal participate in the three-day Africa Endeavor 2009 Initial Planning Conference, January 13, 2009 in Dakar, Senegal. Africa Endeavor, the largest multinational communication interoperability exercise on the African continent, will be hosted in Gabon in July, 2009. The exercise is designed to encourage information-sharing among African nations that will support the development of overall African Union humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and peace-support missions. (U.S. Africa Command Photo by Justin G. Wagg)

This exercise supports a lot of U.S. goals“, U.S. Air Force Major Eric Hilliard, of the Africa Command (Africom)

DAKAR, Jan 13 (Reuters) … Communications experts from around 25 African armies and the U.S. Africa Command (Africom) are meeting in Senegal this week to plan a continental exercise in Gabon in July, the third of its kind and intended to pave the way for a common communications platform.

“The aim is to devise a transmission architecture for control, command and coordination, as well as an information system, for an eventual African Union peacekeeping force,” Captain Mouhamadou Sylla, of the Senegalese army, told Reuters.

This exercise also helps cement the US Africa Command in place as an imperial colonial power organizing and directing proxy armies, controlling the tools, techniques, perhaps the language of their communication. It would be nice if the US would invest in standardizing communications between first responders in the US, or in enableing their communication devices to communicate across the board with each other.

From Congressional testimony by the Africa Faith and Justice Network, in July 2008:

The ‘train and equip’ idea is not new. In fact, it has a very bad history in Africa – a history that harkens back to the proxy wars of the Cold War and U.S. support for illegitimate or corrupt regimes.

In the 1980’s, the U.S. spent $500 million to train and equip Samuel Doe in Liberia. According to a report from the U.S. Army’s Strategic Studies Institute, “every armed group that plundered Liberia over the past 25 years had its core in these U.S.-trained Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) soldiers. There is thus a fear that when the United States withdraws support for its security sector reform program and funding for the AFL, Liberia will be sitting on a time bomb; a well-trained and armed force of elite soldiers who are used to good pay and conditions of service, which may be impossible for the government of Liberia to sustain on its own.”

AFRICOM’s value as a structure for legitimizing African armies should therefore be called into serious question. The long-term ramifications of irresponsible training and equipping should be taken into consideration before the U.S. military is awarded more power in Africa. PMC’s should be debated and scrutinized by the African people and parliamentary bodies in every country should be encouraged to enact legislation against their operations. Propping up and arming corrupt leaders is no path to stability in Africa. The U.S. must act as a credible force for peace, not an overzealous superpower that employs private contractors to conduct military operations in Africa.

Many question the idea of training and coordinating African militaries at all. Many African military forces are primarily used against their own people in order to keep the current regime in power.

South African poet and activist Breyten Breytenbach spoke of US interest in Africa:

… it would seem that the two major sources of interest when it comes to the African continent for the United States is security, the way they interpret it, in other words, how to counteract the possibility of Islamist influence in Africa.

And the second one, of course, is the access to natural resources, particularly to oil. Same effect. In other words, you’re not concerned about developing society. You’re not concerned about democracy. You’re not concerned about women’s rights. You’re not really particularly concerned about the health problems either, although some work has been done in that field. So, AFRICOM, I think, should be seen within that context.

He also spoke in the larger context on government in African countries:

If I may step back for a minute, there’s a big picture that’s emerging in Africa. Africa is rapidly moving to the point where we’re going to have to reconsider the viability of the nation-state concept, when it comes to the African continent, because governments are falling apart. These are plundering elites, as in the case of Zimbabwe, and as is the case with Senegal, for that matter, who use the notion of sovereignty, of national sovereignty and of national independence to be able to plunder and pillage their own people. African armies don’t fight one another; they fight the civilian population.

But you have—parallel to that, you have developing a network, a continental network of civil society organizations, women’s organizations, children’s organizations, the youth, cultural organizations, human rights organizations. Those really, to a large extent, now produce very essential services. One should invest in these organizations. That’s the way it should happen. But, of course, it’s a complicated thing, because you are then denying this club, this very well fed, comfortable club, international club of rulers recognizing one another.

Mukoma Wa Ngugi writes more on these civil society groups that are actually doing the work of governing in much of Africa:

But there’s another side of Africa, the one that pushes back. This side is comprised of political and social organisations and activists, school teacher organisations, journalists, and health professionals, as well as women, worker, and youth organisations that patiently chip away at Africa’s problems usually with no funding, media coverage, or national and international recognition to speak of.

These Africans work against great odds to prevent famine, war, human rights abuse, the spread of AIDS, and a host of other urgent issues. When tragedy strikes, they work hard to ameliorate the effect. But even when they aren’t facing political persecution, they are under-funded and without the protection that comes with media coverage. They are the unseen, under-supported and unrecognised pillars of African societies.

… the question is why it is much easier for us to listen to philanthropists talk about what is wrong with Africa rather than the serious and dedicated political activists on the ground. Why are we not helping those who are helping themselves?

We love glossy packages that promise big bangs and super solutions. Take the Bill Gates Initiative, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa that promises super seeds for super plants to end famine in Africa. A simpler and more long-lasting solution lies in organic African farming, growing more food crops over cash crops, the diversification of African agriculture, and the depoliticisation of food and other basic human necessities.

The point is that every little bit of support counts and it can come in many forms – moral solidarity, awareness-raising, or financial support. But this help should not be afraid of the Africa that pushes back, or come at the expense of long-term solutions. One helping hand should not kill dreams with the other.

It looks like Breyten Breytenbach is correct when he says to the US:

“… you’re not concerned about developing society. You’re not concerned about democracy. You’re not concerned about women’s rights. You’re not really particularly concerned about the health problems either, although some work has been done in that field. So, AFRICOM, I think, should be seen within that context.”

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The APS training the Senegalese Navy, November 2007

From AFRICOM’s FAQ:
What is U.S. Africa Command designed to do?
U.S. Africa Command will better enable the Department of Defense and other elements of the U.S. government to work in concert and with partners to achieve a more stable environment in which political and economic growth can take place . . .


From the report of an international conference held in Accra in October 2007 PDF: Democratization in Africa – What Progress Toward Institutionalization, I looked up what it had to say about Senegal, since General Ward mentioned it.

General Ward, Commander of AFRICOM, testified before Congress in March, PDF Ward Testimony. He mentioned Senegal several times. I wondered if he had Senegal in mind for a West African regional HQ for AFRICOM. So I thought I would look at what he had to say about Senegal, and compare it to what was said in the report on Democratization. From the report on democratization:

The re-emergence of political monopolistic practices—for example in Senegal and Nigeria—can also lead to severe setbacks in democratic fairness and probity, out of proportion to their institutional capabilities.

. . .

When Senegal’s longtime opposition leader, Abdoulaye Wade, won the presidency in 2000, ending four decades of Socialist Party rule, there were high hopes for a new era of democracy, built on some of the continent’s oldest traditions of pluralism and liberal thought. But increasingly, the aging President Wade drew power and resources into his own hands and those of his family. In the years leading up to Wade’s reelection in 2007, journalists, political activists, singers, and marabouts (Muslim spiritual leaders) who criticized Wade or supported the opposition were subjected to physical intimidation and violence. Critics charge the election was marred by vote-buying, multiple voting, and obstruction of opposition voting.

Despite a lackluster economic performance, Wade was able to mobilize support with corruption—coopting religious figures, civil society leaders, local administrators, military officers, and members of with money, loans, diplomatic passports, and other favors. Now, it is alleged, the octogenarian president is preparing to hand power to his chosen successor—his son. “He has destroyed all the institutions, including political parties. He has taken opposition with him and manipulated the parliament,” a Senegalese democratic activist told me. “People are so poor and Wade controls everything. If you need something, you have to go with him.” The reaction from Europe and the United States (without whose aid Wade’s government could hardly function) has been muted. The activist lamented, “We expected more from the donors,” referring to the defense of principles, not the gift of money. (p.8-9)

. . .

For African leaders, penalizing rural groups or the urban poor is less hazardous than cutting the military budget or divesting state enterprises, which may create large job losses among urban constituencies.

On March 13 General Ward testified to Congress:

IMET funding for Senegal allowed that country to host a regional seminar on Defense Resource Management and conduct a Military Justice Seminar. The IMET program has also contributed to the excellent reputation the Senegalese military has earned during numerous peacekeeping deployments, and continues to contribute to the military’s positive and responsible involvement in civil affairs. Returning Senegalese IMET graduates are immediately assigned to key leadership or staff positions, and their professional attributes make them well-suited to assume leadership positions in international military operations. Sustained support for a robust IMET program is a long-term investment in the future and directly supports long-term U.S. interests.

[[International Military Training and Education (IMET) program brings African military officers to US military academies and schools for training (some say indoctrination.) Top countries: Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa.]]

. . .

A lack of FMF (Foreign Military Financing) funding or inconsistent year-to-year distribution can compromise long range objectives, turn our partners towards other sources, and inhibit peacekeeping operations. Senegal, for example, would not have been able to meet its Darfur commitment without ACOTA equipment and help from France.

Granted, AFRICOM is a military combatant command. Still, I don’t see anything in what General Ward says that indicates plans to help achieve a more stable environment in which political and economic growth can take place. The only thing the AFRICOM activities in Senegal that he describes seem likely to do is to facilitate military government, as he speaks of military leadership and positive involvement in civil affairs. If the US cared about stability, and particularly about positive political and economic growth in Senegal, it seems that some pressure on Wade to support and strengthen democratic institutions might be appropriate, along with some measurements to gauge actions and progress.

Instead, I suspect Wade seems like an extremely convenient tool, or “partner”, for AFRICOM to engage.

The report on Democratization also includes these observations:

Few countries, however, have developed an autonomous domain of civil society that can effectively press politicians for better policies or economic performance. In such countries as Mali, Senegal, Mozambique, Malawi, Benin, Ghana, or even Nigeria, we commonly find that many associations are small, focused in urban areas, reliant on donor funding, or fragmented regionally and ethnically.

. . .

The re-emergence of political monopolistic practices—for example in Senegal and Nigeria—can also lead to severe setbacks in democratic fairness and probity, out of proportion to their institutional capabilities.